Ulla-Maija Alanen Mirrors of Water 5.4.–8.6.2024

In Ulla-Maija Alanen’s photographic works, the water lily grows towards the surface of the lake, which reflects the sky and the surrounding forest. As the water’s surface acts as a double mirror, it simultaneously reflects the underwater world below. The flower encounters its own image before it passes through the water’s threshold and moves into the atmosphere above the surface. Alanen has captured the moment when the spirit and body of the water lily meet at the water’s double mirror.

The exhibition at Hippolyte Korjaamo consists of black-and-white photographs, as well as a large-scale installation created by Alanen based on her drawings. The exhibition includes an audio landscape composed by Maija Ruuskanen.

The water lily is the world’s oldest flowering plant, and is often considered to symbolise purity and rebirth. Thoughts of the plant lead to its symmetrical flowers and surrounding oval leaves, which rest on the surface of the water – aspects that are only part of its entirety. Most of the water lily’s life cycle occurs below the surface, at the bottom of the lake. Alanen is more interested in the underwater, animal-like essence and behavior of the water lily than its beauty. In the depths, the plant appears in its many forms and life stages, all of which the artist approaches equally.

The flower roots itself  in the depths of the sediment with a poisonous rhizome that grows into a more complex mycelium year by year. Together, the flower and rhizome create contrasts between light and dark, the seen and unseen, the momentary and the continuous. Through the installation, the rhizome becomes part of the exhibition space. Alanen has drawn winding rhizomes, whose buds have taken on the role of eyes. The rhizome observes its surroundings at floor level and spreads into the available space in the same way it conquers the lake in nature. Sometimes, all the flowers on the surface feed on the same rhizome, which crawls in the darkness of the lake bed. The perfectly beautiful water lily blossoms reveal themselves as lures for the predator.

Ulla-Maija Alanen has been taking underwater photographs in the remote lakes of the  Pohja-Kisko Lake Upland for the last 15 years. Her education is in architecture and visual arts. She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, University of Arts and graduated as an architect from the Helsinki University of Technology (now Aalto University). Alanen works with various techniques and interdisciplinary approaches. She has held exhibitions in Finland and elsewhere in Europe and has designed sets in Europe and Asia.  In the 1990s, Alanen was a pioneer in photo-based facade projections in urban spaces.  The artist’s works are included in the Finnish State Art Collections, among others.

The exhibition and the artist’s work have been supported by the Kone Foundation.



Ulla-Maija Alanen
Mirrors of Water
April 5 – June 8, 2024
Hippolyte Korjaamo (Töölönkatu 51 A-B, 00250 Helsinki)
Open according to the opening hours of Korjaamo

image: Ulla-Maija Alanen, Mirror of Water 3, 2024